Report: Israel Railways Safety Incidents Up Over 100% in 2015

An Israel Railways train Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90
An Israel Railways train. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Although the annual report of Israel Railways affirms that it is “committed to responsibility and safety, and to protecting the environment,” there were more than double the number of safety emergencies on Israel Railways lines in 2015 than in 2014. On the average there was one serious safety incident per month last year; in 2014, fewer than half a dozen were reported.

B’chasdei Shamayim, there were no injuries in most of the incidents reported last year.

Among the emergencies outlined in the report are near crashes, trains being routed to the wrong tracks, and conductors ignoring signals to stop their trains. Israel Railways could not account for the increase in safety incidents.

This year is not off to a good start either. Last week, the Environment Ministry announced that it was opening a criminal investigation against Israel Railways over the recent crash in Dimona, in which large amounts of dangerous chemicals were released into the atmosphere, forcing hundreds to remain indoors to avoid the toxic fumes. In the incident, hundreds of Dimona residents were told to lock their doors and close their windows after a freight train carrying bromide and phosphate rammed into several train cars that were parked at the Dimona station. The impact of the crash released the chemicals into the air. Several residents were treated for breathing problems and skin irritation. Police closed the area around the crash site overnight.

Israel Railways said that in its initial investigation, “it appears that 15 cars were mistakenly decoupled from their engine and left on the tracks,” and that human error was apparently responsible. However, the Environment Ministry investigation unveiled a long list of negligence and possibly intentional actions that led to the incident. Officials were apparently unaware that the cars had been left behind, and were also unaware as to how many were “loose.” The incoming train was not signaled to slow down, and the cars where the chemicals were stored may not have met safety standards.